Last Updated 10 November 2016

A semi-presidential republic, Djibouti is a small but strategically-located country on the horn of Africa.

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

Although the constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of expression, these rights are not always respected in practice.

The president is required to take a religious oath at inauguration; other government employees are also required to do so, such as magistrates, the presidents of Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Chamber of Accounts, and the inspector general of state. While there is no penalty established by law, it remains an official custom written in the Constitution for the president of the country and required by law for others. No legal provision exists for non-religious oaths or affirmation.

Education and children’s rights

The state school system is secular, although there are private Muslim schools. State-run schools do not instruct in religion. The sector has said to have been improving in recent years, and overall literacy is up to around 70%.

Family, community and society

Around 94% of the population identifies as Sunni Muslim, the remainder usually identified as Christian. Citizens officially are considered Muslims if they do not specifically identify with a faith; there are consequently no figures available on the number of atheists in the country. However, the law does not impose sanctions on those who do not observe Islamic teachings or practice other religious beliefs. Nor does the constitution specifically prohibit proselytizing.

Muslims (and all citizens counted as Muslims) are required to marry in an Islamic ceremony.  Non-Muslims must marry in accordance with the rites of the religion with which they are registered. The government allows civil marriage only for non-Muslim foreign residents; so if there were atheist Djibouti who wanted to marry, they would not be able to do so (unless they hid their atheism and registered with a religion).

This interreligious control goes further: a non-Muslim man may marry a Muslim woman only after converting to Islam. According to the family code, “impediment to a marriage occurs when a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim.”

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Although freedom of expression is protected by the constitution, the media are owned and controlled by the state. Freedoms of assembly and association are nominally protected under the constitution, but are not respected in practice.

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